August 20, 2015
Trending on Twitter recently was the hashtag: #ThingsJesusNeverSaid
It was a case of the good, the bad, the ugly, the downright blasphemous, and occasionally humorous. Such tweets included:
"Go to Yale Divinity School""The old covenant is a republication of the covenant of works.""Man, if I just had a bigger platform I could really get my message out there.""Better check if that Facebook post got enough likes for me to save that sick person.""Being gay is wrong.""Patriarchy is cool.""Bring the children to the font.""Go into the world and tell people their perspective is wrong.""Blessed are the rich.""Women shouldn't preach.""Every square inch is mine.""We can't feed all these people. That would only create Dependency."
"Lets cram mother pigs into small metal crates for their entire life."
"There seems to be a lot of confusion about #ThingsJesusNeverSaid. Want to know what He did say? Look in the bible at anything in red."
As you can see, people took this opportunity to express their views on theology, politics, social justice, etc. But it occurred to me that this trend on Twitter is a good opportunity to highlight the shortcomings of the "Red Letter Bible" phenomenon, pioneered by Louis Klopsch in the nineteenth century, which puts in red ink the words that Jesus spoke while on earth.
The problems with the "Red Letter Bible" are fairly obvious. First, we don't actually know in some instances what are the actual words verbally spoken by Christ and what are the words of the gospel writers who are providing their own commentary (see John 3 as an example).
Second, and most importantly, if "Red Letter Bibles" are going to be consistent, then all of the letters in the entire Bible should be printed in red.
Because apart from the incarnation, theology for sinners is impossible. There would be no means for God to be able to relate to sinful creatures apart from a Mediator. God communicates wisdom or knowledge of divine things to Christ, who, in his human nature, receives such knowledge from God in order to channel that knowledge to his people.
Franciscus Junius made the following point:
"No account of God exists in created reality by any reason except by this theology of Christ. He received this theology from the Father for our sakes, and we received it from Him."
"For because the knowledge of the divine is an unapproachable fountain and great abyss, it was definitely necessary that wisdom be supplied to that humanity which God assumed, like a most abounding stream but adjusted to created things. From this we all will drink..." (see 1 Pet. 1:11).
What does this mean?
The only way we can have any access to God, any sight of God, any knowledge of God, any fruition of God, is in and through the God-man, Jesus Christ. Christ makes theology possible. Apart from Christ there is no possibility of any divine-human relationship. And in light of what I've been saying above, all of the words given to us in the Bible are Christ's words! They are all "Red Letters"! They all speak of him; they all come from him. He is the mouth-piece of God, the Prophet.
So, when we attempt to understand "What Jesus Never Said" we are not, in the first place, dealing merely with the words we believe Jesus actually said while on earth. We're also dealing with all of his Word - the Old and New Testaments.
More than that, as good theologians, we aren't just dealing with the actual words of Scripture, but also the meaning of those words. So even if you don't find the actual words of Jesus or even words from the Bible itself, it is still possible that Jesus may have "said" it, in terms of good and necessary consequence.
So when you talk about things "Jesus Never Said", you should be careful that they are not words that can either be found in the whole of God's Word or words that can't be deduced by good and necessary consequence.
Jesus may never have said - and the Bible may not explicitly say - that women should partake of the Lord's Supper, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't! (Thanks be to the WCF for "good and necessary consequence"). That is an example where "ThingsJesusNeverSaid" shows how silly it is for Christians to think such games have any theological value.